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Success means nothing happens.
-Professor Peter McIntyre

I know usually when I’m talking about getting poked I’m eluding to an erect penis heading in my direction. Which is a very nice thought I have to say!

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Today I’m teetering in my heels on the edge of the soapbox to discuss a whole other jab involving a syringe. I know this is sometimes an emotive concept and I’m often about the pros and cons of an argument. On this I’m single minded.

I’m pro-vaccination and here’s why.

This particular Good Girl was raised by a disabled mother whose afflictions were caused by Polio, and I have an older sister who was born a “rubella baby” after our mother contracted German Measles during her first trimester of pregnancy.

A poster family for pro-vaccination if I ever saw one.

Polio, also know as poliomyelitis or poliovirus, is thankfully an almost eradicated disease in Australia and other first world countries thanks to an aggressive immunisation program that started in 1956 (Salk injections were replaced with the oral Sabine vaccination in 1966).

While my mother, along with so many others, contracted polio before a vaccination was developed, the introduction of that vaccination meant her children were guaranteed they would never be struck down by this debilitating disease.

At the tender age of four, my mother was isolated in a wing of the Children’s Hospital with other infected for over a year. I can’t imagine how frightening and confusing that must have been for an infant.

My mother endured years of painful suffering, being strapped into full body callipers, plaster casts and later, leg callipers. Those that she wears today are custom made, light weight fibreglass callipers. Though moulded to fit, in recent years she had her little toes removed due to blackening caused by years of pressure.

She has lived with a severe limp and has been in and out of wheelchairs her whole life. She was rendered disabled in a more ignorant 1950’s Australia, and her life was filled with isolation, discrimination and torment that forever changed her psyche.

She considers herself to be luckier than some. Some people lived their lives in iron lungs or never walked again. Her life has been about pain management, doctors uneducated about polio, specialists fighting for funding, an endless list of pain killers, operations and advocating for more education on “post polio syndrome”.

By no means is polio a “dead” disease. There have been recent outbreaks in Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel. In a world where travel is prevalent, immunisation in countries with a zero rate of polio remains vital.

What my mum also couldn’t control in 1968 was contracting German Measles when pregnant with my sister. She’d been minding young nieces and didn’t know they had rubella.

Miraculously she was alive when born, though she weighed little more than a tub of margarine.

She was thought to be blind with a hole in her heart that required emergency surgery. She stayed at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital for the first year of her life. Heart, eye and hearing specialists were ever present.

I’m pleased to say that she not only survived but although she is blind in one eye and cannot drive, she is an intelligent, vibrant woman with children of her own. Children who are most definitely vaccinated.

Australia has for many years been at the forefront of infant vaccination programmes. As early as 1924 mass immunisations for diphtheria started in Australia, introduced as a school programme in 1932. Rubella immunisations were added to the schedule in 1971.

What’s really disappointing is recent stories coming out of New York about the recent measles outbreak and the parents fighting to actually not immunise their children.

Given that America is a first world country, I have to wonder why anyone with access to a free vaccination program wouldn’t choose to protect to their children and the wider community from a very preventable disease.

One in every 1000 children with measles will develop encephalitis. (This is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to convulsions, and can leave the child deaf or mentally impaired). One in 20 children with measles will develop pneumonia.

Measles outbreaks still occur in Australia. There are still parents out there who don’t believe they need to vaccinate their children. I actually had a discussion with someone last week who thought most diseases on the Australian Immunisation schedule were indeed “dead”. Which prompted this blog post to be honest.

There is a reason immunisations schedules are current. Diseases still exist. They are real and if contracted, are dangerous and sometimes life threatening.

There are of course instances where children can’t be immunised due to their own health issues. Do we not owe it to those children, and the unborn children (and babies still too young to be vaccinated) to immunise those that can be? Have you ever seen a baby with whooping cough? It’s incredibly distressing.

There are those that refuse to immunise on religious grounds. Far be it for me to judge anyone’s religious beliefs but I think it’s fair to exclude Unimmunised kids from kindergartens, schools and play groups during outbreaks. That’s simply responsible.

The facts about immunisation seem lost on anti-vaccination groups. Not content to simply choose not to immunise their own children, they scare monger all over social media in the hope that others will join them in their cause.

The Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network for example is an anti-vaccination lobby group that has been described as a provider of “misleading, inaccurate and deceptive” vaccination information by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission and has been heavily criticised by Doctors and other experts on immunisation. Their agenda seems to be to downplay the severity of childhood diseases and that health can be maintained in a vaccine free world.

Incidentally they also raised a conspiracy theory that microchips were being implanted via vaccines. An argument I’m sure that added no weight to their credibility. The group (formerly known as the Australian Vaccinations Network) was also stripped of its registered charity status as it’s misinformation was considered dangerous to the health of children.

In terms of health benefits and cost effectiveness, prevention remains better than cure. Successful vaccination programmes have saved the lives of countless children, or spared them a lifetime of health issues that can be caused by preventable disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states on its website: “Vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious diseases. Only clean water, also considered to be a basic human right, performs better. Paradoxically, a vociferous antivaccine lobby thrives today in spite of the undeniable success of vaccination programmes against formerly fearsome diseases that are now rare in developed countries.”

Stepping off the soap box now, but I sincerely hope you’ve been poked! Immunise your kids.

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What are your thoughts on immunisation?